Prospects are different in hockey. They aren't the finished products of the NBA and NFL drafts. But they also aren't baseball draftees — low-yield investments whose maturity rates are insanely long and nowhere guaranteed. Hockey prospects fall in the middle. They're drafted at 18, crude and green. A few can make the jump. Most enter the maze of minor hockey leagues underneath the NHL.Great read with much more here.
They're all considered buds of pure potential, but theirs is potential that's expected to come to fruition fairly soon. (If at 25, 26 they haven't poked into the NHL daylight, they're busts.) They're kept buried in order to build the strength to compete in the corners, and to get accustomed to the speed of the professional game. They're planted in the favorable conditions against lesser competition so they can germinate as players.
Really, though, it's psychological. These draftees have all been their teams' best player since they were 5 years old. They've gotten to where they are because every time they hopped the boards, they honestly believed they were about to take control of the game. To thrust them into the NHL before they're ready is to disabuse them, or, worse, to make them delusional.
This is one reason why Columbus, Phoenix, and Florida are considered hockey's scorched earth, and why fans grieve for the heirloom players these teams draft every June. They don't (and can't) allow talented young players the time to develop, to get physically and mentally mature to where the play clicks for them like it has in the past, when they had the heart to insist themselves upon the game. Instead, these children (and they are children) are tossed onto desolate teams. Their self-conception, the one thing they've known to be true — that they can score or stop someone from scoring at will — withers. They rarely recover.
For A New Start (F.A.N.S.)